An Hour in Purgatory: GAEREA - Limbo Review

GAEREA reaches new heights - and depths - with their sophomore release.

Words by Ryan McCarthy:

Billing themselves as “cathartic black metal,” Portuguese quintet GAEREA leave no ambiguity as to what they’re looking to accomplish with their music. It’s easy to write black metal off as a genre entirely obsessed with darkness, cold, death, and all the other tired tropes, but it’s also easy to forget that beneath the sometimes over-the-top theatrics and aesthetics of the genre flows a very real, genuine wellspring of emotion - and an unflinching resolve to grapple with, expose, and transcend the more negative aspects of the human experience.


GAEREA is a relatively new project, with only a 2016 EP and a 2018 LP under their belt to date. I distinctly remember hearing 2018’s Unsettling Whispers for the first time and being absolutely blown away by the creativity and aggression that this newcomer had brought to the table. However, they faded from my attention shortly afterwards. Let’s be real, there are so many bands in the overcrowded underground today that it’s genuinely impossible to keep up - even for someone like myself who does their very best to only focus on one subgenre. However, the name was still lurking in the back of my head, and when I heard that they would be releasing an album in 2020 my interest was immediately reignited. That record is Limbo, a six track, 52 minute sophomore album of genuinely impressive quality.


To Ain kicks off this album with an absolute ass beater of a riff which wouldn’t sound too out of place on a HEXIS record. Following through with a borderline dizzying demonstration of black metal aggression, the second half of this 11 minute track ventures into almost post-rock territory - and sheds some light on that whole “cathartic black metal” thing. It’s certainly true that GAEREA is largely working within the black metal framework, but they feel confident “coloring outside of the genre’s lines,” as the press release so aptly put it, allowing the band to present a breadth and depth of emotion that black metal usually eschews.


Second track Null offers more of the same, diving right in to a conventional and furious black metal passage that would make GORGOROTH proud. While I don’t have the lyrics to any tracks aside from Null, I feel confident inferring that this record deals heavily with depression, alienation, and a sense of defiant triumph in the face of these overwhelming states of mind. Just consider the following lyrics: “Under the sun / This familiar pain / I assumed an ultimate form / Splendid and passionate.” Ignoring the fact that English probably isn’t the native language here, it’s rather obvious that this record doesn’t just dwell in the misery of existence, but seeks to rise above it in a Nietzschean defiance of the meaninglessness of the time we spend here. This desire gives the six tracks on Limbo a triumphant, bombastic and almost life-affirming quality.


Sonically, Limbo stands out as one of the more engaging records I’ve heard this year. But it’s truly in those moments of pure, raw emotion, when your awareness almost melds with the music, that this record stands on its own two feet, promising great things for the future of this project.

Limbo is out July 24th courtesy of Season of Mist. Preorder your copy HERE.

Cover art by Eliran Kantor

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